October 19, 2010

Poll shows Cutler gaining

Independent candidate has 26 percent of vote in survey commissioned by his campaign

By Rebekah Metzler rmetzler@mainetoday.com
MaineToday Media State House Writer

AUGUSTA -- A poll commissioned by independent gubernatorial candidate Eliot Cutler's campaign shows increased support for the Cape Elizabeth lawyer in the race for the Blaine House, but rival camps question its accuracy.

Cutler's poll shows him just one percentage point behind Democrat Libby Mitchell, placing him third behind the major-party candidates. Republican Paul LePage leads with support from 32 percent of respondents, Mitchell has support from 27 percent, with Cutler at 26 percent, according to the campaign's internal poll. Independent candidate Shawn Moody was at 6 percent and 9 percent of respondents were undecided. Kevin Scott, another independent candidate, was not included in the poll.

The poll surveyed about 400 people from Oct. 15-Oct. 17 and has a margin of error of plus or minus about 5 percent, according to a release from the Cutler campaign.

The internal poll from the Cutler camp marks a huge surge in support for the candidate, when compared with recent independent polling.

Last week, a Rasmussen Reports poll showed Cutler trailing in third place with 20 percent of the vote. The Maine Poll, conducted by Critical Insights for MaineToday Media last week, placed Cutler's support among likely voters at about 11 percent.

Keith Frederick, the pollster for the Cutler campaign, owns a firm based in Arlington, Va., but has served Maine clients previously, such as Gov. John Baldacci. He has also done polling for First Wind, according to his company website.

The release from the Cutler campaign showed him with support between 13 and 15 percent of respondents from July to mid-September.

"We just put it out there," said Ted O'Meara, campaign manager for Cutler. "We felt, obviously, that things are happening out there, that the Rasmussen poll last week started to pick that up, and our own poll is confirming what we are seeing and feeling."

Dan Demeritt, spokesman for the LePage campaign, dismissed the poll.

"We don't take a lot of stock in a poll paid for by a campaign that desperately needs to show momentum, nor do I think 25 percent of Mainers are ready to elect a Washington lobbyist as governor," he said. "That being said, we're happy the Cutler campaign paid for a poll showing Paul LePage in the lead."

The Mitchell campaign also questioned the quality of the internal Cutler poll, as well as MaineToday Media's decision to publish them in a news story.

"As for the poll itself, we feel good that our opponent's polling shows he remains in third place and that Libby is within the margin of error of lead," said Jesse Connolly, campaign manager for Mitchell, in a statement. "Without knowing if these are the numbers from the initial horse race question or the final horse race question, taken after the voter had been presented a series of positive and negative statements about the candidates, it is impossible to know how credible Cutler's numbers are."

Connolly said when other campaigns, including their own, released internal polling numbers to the press, MaineToday reported them differently.

"The fact that MaineToday Media is writing about Cutler's internal polling when they have relegated the internal polls of other campaign to the weekly column calls into question the impartiality of the paper," he said.

MaineToday Media owns the Morning Sentinel, Kennebec Journal and The Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram.

Rebekah Metzler -- 620-7016


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